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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Highway Commission and the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department will officially begin a highway construction program with a proclamation ceremony.

The ceremony will be Wednesday in Little Rock to mark the first of 31 highway projects to be constructed under the $1.8 billion Connecting Arkansas Program. The program is funded with a 10-year, half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in 2012.

The first project is a six-mile portion of the new Bella Vista Bypass from Bentonville to Hiwasse in northwestern Arkansas. The Bella Vista Bypass is a multi-phased project to construct two lanes of an ultimate 19-mile four-lane Interstate.

The other 30 projects include widening and improvement to highways statewide.

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